This a suprisingly intereesting place that opened in late 2003 in a barely converted pub. There is a still a bar on one side, the dining room on the other. However instead of serving over-priced gatropub nonsense, here you get authentic Indian food, as evidenced by the high proportion of Indians actually eating here. Popadoms were free and the menu is interesting. As well as the curry regulars there was a variety of different vegetarian dishes, and a wide range for carnivores also. There is a bare wood floor, the walls painted various colours, and a few fabrics hung from the ceiling with various Indian artifacts on the walls. Music ranges from poor Western to techno Indian (a sitar with a disco beat!).
I started with a form of chicken kebab, that had more than half a dozen large pieces of chicken marinated and then wrapped in a spiced batter, then cooked in the tandoor and taken off the skewer to served. The chicken was very tender, though the batter was rather floury, and I’m not sure the chicken would not have been better without it though it did keep it moist (round up). Main courses were much better.
I had a fine chicken biriani, served in a little casserole dish, the dish sealed with pastry to keep in the fragrance of the rice and chicken. This is the best way to make biriani, but I have only ever seen this method used in India. The chicken inside was moist and tender, the rice suffused with spices, with distinct grains and delicious (3/10). Aloo jeera had good potatoes laced with cumin, cooked with spinach which kept its flavour well; there was a distinct taste of ginger amongst the other spices (2/10). Channa masala had tender chick peas (2/10) and “khumb kaju matter” consisted of mushroom and green peas in gravy made with cashew nuts (2/10). Plain rice was fluffy, and the breads were great: garlic naan had plenty of garlic taste and had a pleasingly soft texture. Even better was romali roti, the thinnest Indian bread made on a very hot steel hemisphere, the bread folded and put on the steel for just a few seconds, folded again and again until you have a little parcel of bread that is very thin yet keeps its heat due to the number of folds. I have only seen this in Tamarind outside of India, and it was well made, with good texture. All the main course dishes featured fresh and vibrant spicing, such a change from so many places.
Hot towels are the proper variety (no lukewarm paper imitations here). Dessert featured kulfi that they actually make on the premises, and this was very good, the texture smooth and the ice cream having fresh pistachios and a few fresh almonds also (3/10). Service was mostly good, though attention was erratic. Overall this was a place to which I will definitely return, and has really authentic cooking from a chef who cooked for over 20 years in various Indian hotels; it has been open just over a year in its new guise/management, and deserved to do well. One point to note – portions are vast, so if you order normally you will have enough for a complete takeaway meal as well. One other bonus, a pint of Stella Artois was, wait for it, £2.40. I recently paid £5.50 for a half of Singha beer at the Foliage, and you would be hard pressed to find Stella Artois for £2.40 even in a pub in London, never mind a restaurant.